The Meeting of the Senate Standing Committee on Kashmir Affairs and Gilgit Baltistan was held on Tuesday.
The meeting was held under the Chairmanship of Senator Sajid Mir and was attended among others by Senator Lt. Gen (R) Salahuddin Tirmizi, Senator Lt. Gen (R) Abdul Qayyum, Senator Anwar Lal Dean, Senator Raja Muhammad Zafarul Haq, Senator Dr. Shehzad Waseem, Senator A. Rehman Malik, Senator Nighat Mirza and senior officers of the Ministry of Kashmir Affairs Gilgit Baltistan, Government of Gilgit Baltistan and the Government of Azad Jammu and Kashmir, the Finance Division and Higher Education Commission (HEC).
The agenda before the Committee was budget cuts and its implications, details of scholarships and budgetary allocations and its utilization and awarding of scholarships in the two areas.
The meeting commenced with condemnation of India’s irresponsible statements regarding Pakistan’s involvement in the Pulwama attack. Senator Lt. Gen (R) Abdul Qayyum asserted that a surgical attack on Pakistan would be tantamount to an act of war and assured that Pakistan would respond strongly. This, he said, was a reaction to India’s iron handedness and use of force in Indian Occupied Kashmir (IOK).
He appealed that the United Nations must take action according to the recommendations made in the United Nations Commissioner for Human Rights Report published in June, 2018. The report says that says that a fact finding mission must monitor the situation in Kashmir.
Senator A. Rehman Malik said that the government and opposition stand on one page on Kashmir issue. He presented a set of 21 questions to the Indian Government, the United Nations Commissioner for Human Rights and Interpol. He presented a resolution to the Committee which was passed unanimously. The Committee demanded investigation through the attached 21 questions. It stated that only an investigation would determine whether it was a security lapse or an attempt to replicate the Samjhota Express incident.
Senator A. Rehman Malik told the Committee that the Indian claim of Pakistan’s involvement within five minutes of the attack showed that it had malafide intentions. He said that he looked forward to a strong statement regarding the attack from the Prime Minister of Pakistan.
Senator Lt. Gen (R) Abdul Qayyum said that United Nations Military Observer Group India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP) must be given permission to investigate on both sides of the LOC and that Amnesty International be allowed to monitor the situation as well.
While discussing budgetary cuts in the annual budgets of Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJ&K) and Gilgit Baltistan, it was revealed that a total budgetary rationalization PKR 3.52 billion and PKR 3.79 billion had been enforced respectively. The original 2018-19 allocation for AJ&K and Gilgit Baltistan was PKR 29.87 billion and PKR 21.32 billion respectively. The Committee showed displeasure regarding these cuts.
Deliberating over budget utilization in AJ&K and Gilgit Baltistan, the Committee was informed that out of a total of PKR 25.86 billion in AJ&K, PKR 8.69 billion had been released out of which PKR8.26 billion had been utilized. In Gilgit Baltistan total allocation was PKR 17.53 billion out of which of PRK 3.01 billion was released. Total utilized budget used was PKR 2.83 billion.
While discussing details of scholarships awarded to students in AJ&K and Gilgit Baltistan the Committee recommended that the Ministry must provide increase in the amount and a minimum of PKR 10000 must be awarded to the students. Minister for Kashmir Affairs, Mr. Ali Amin Gandapur assured the Committee that the Ministry is looking at increasing the number of awarded scholarships and stipend rates.